Climbing in age: As Eagle Climbing + Fitness turns 3, gym is helping to usher in next evolution of USA Climbing
EAGLE — Eagle County climbers have now been using the 8,500 square feet of indoor space at Eagle Climbing + Fitness for three years.
The Chambers Avenue business celebrated three years on Saturday by doing what it does best – hosting a massive climbing event.
Approximately 160 competitors from across Colorado and New Mexico visited Eagle on Saturday to compete in the USA Climbing event, which was the first regional qualifying event of the season in bouldering.
Over the past three years, Eagle Climbing + Fitness has hosted high school, college, championship-level and regular series USA Climbing events, demonstrating that it is fulfilling one of the jobs it set out to do in providing another competitive climbing venue to reduce travel loads for Western Slope climbing clubs.
USA Climbing events, in that time, have evolved considerably. With climbing now an Olympic sport, there has been increased participation and increased standards at local events, Larry Moore with Eagle Climbing + Fitness said.
The gym employs Ben Rathbun, a level-2 USA Climbing routesetter, who often serves as head routesetter at events. Judges score the event live from electronic phones or tablets. USA Climbing sends ambassadors like regional coordinators and rules committee representatives to regional climbing competitions. International-level scoring standards are now used, as well.
At Olympic or World Cup climbing events, competitors are scored on both a zone hold — an area within the middle of the climb where control is established — and a finish hold at the end of the climb.
Locals have long been familiar with the international system as the Vail Valley Foundation’s annual summer Mountain Games has hosted a bouldering World Cup event many times in the past. In recent years, the World Cup level competitions have not been taking place in the large-crowd formats of the Mountain Games due to COVID-19 precautions.
USA Climbing has since moved to the international scoring system, as well, for regional competitions like the one held Saturday at Eagle Climbing + Fitness.
“For USA Climbing competitions, it used to be all or nothing, you got points if you got to the top, but you didn’t get points for anything else … but we were seeing the international format with the zone that you can get points for at the World Cup event that we held in Vail for 12 years,” Moore said. “And now the zone format is being implemented, even at the qualifying level, for youth competitors.”
Moore said the momentum was shifting in that direction even prior to sport climbing becoming a part of the Olympics for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“Building up to the Olympics, it was becoming more and more popular, we had more and more athletes wanting to go to the regional championships, and it was making those events really big and making it more challenging to accommodate the climbers,” Moore said.
Non-competitive format also
Moore said Saturday’s event was the 45th USA Climbing competition he’s hosted in his career, and the first that used the zone format and had representatives from USA Climbing on hand.
“It was nice,” Moore said Saturday. “It used to be that I was the one who would have to enforce all the rules, so it’s been a big relief to be able to direct people to a USA Climbing representative directly to answer questions.”
Events can be a little more intimidating than they used to be, which is why it’s nice that there’s also a high school option for kids, Moore said.
Colorado Rocky Mountain School coach Dave Meyer describes the American Scholastic Climbing League as something that’s specifically not about winning or sending kids to the Olympics.
“The focus is on getting all the kids together who are climbers in a really positive, supportive, connected atmosphere,” Meyer said. “Because if it’s only about the individual and beating people, they can do that with USA Climbing.”
Town series coming soon
Moore said with both the high school and USA Climbing options for kids at Eagle Climbing + Fitness, the only thing the gym is missing currently is an option for adult recreational climbers who want to test their skills in a competitive setting.
“That’s next,” Moore said. “We’re working on getting weekly event series going like the kayaking or mountain biking competitions.”
In the meantime, Eagle Climbing + Fitness is celebrating three years with a customer appreciation special, running through Nov. 10. Those interested in joining the gym can skip the $75 initiation fee if they sign up on Wednesday or before, Moore said. Anyone who purchases a membership of one month or more during the third anniversary celebration will be entered into a raffle for a free one-month membership.
“The website says through Sunday, but we’ve extended it to Nov. 10 which is our true anniversary,” Moore said.